CHS Inc. said Friday that it will build a $3 billion fertilizer plant in North Dakota, the single largest investment in the Inver Grove Heights-based company’s history.CHS, the nation’s largest farmer-owned cooperative, has been considering the plant in Spiritwood, N.D., since September 2012. Since then, the projected cost of the plant about 85 miles west of Fargo has more than doubled, but CHS says it has the financial firepower to swing the deal.The fertilizer factory, said to be the largest single private investment ever in North Dakota, is slated to open in 2018’s first half. Construction site work could start this fall, or by next spring at the latest.The plant is expected to require about 1,500 construction workers, and will have 160 to 180 permanent employees.“This is the biggest deal the company has ever done,” CHS CEO Carl Casale said in an interview with the Star Tribune. “It’s transformational. It will be a really big thing for a long time.”The CHS project is one of about two dozen proposed U.S. fertilizer plants. Some will likely never get off the ground, but the CHS plant has two key factors in its favor. It’s close to abundant natural gas supplies, a key feedstock; and it’s close to its farmer customers.CHS, which stands for Cenex and Harvest States, had $44.5 billion in revenue last year, and is known best for its grain and petroleum-based businesses.CHS is also one of the nation’s largest fertilizer wholesalers, but the Spiritwood nitrogen plant would be its first production facility.
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